NPR logo Daniel Inouye And The Rio Grande

Daniel Inouye And The Rio Grande

A bit of a controversy over this week's trivia question during Wednesday's Political Junkie segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation.

Given the interest in immigration policy and immigrants, I offered two questions, either one correctly answered would have gotten you the valued t-shirt.

The first:  Name the last two senators born in Latin America.  The answers: John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, and former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, who was born in Cuba.

The alternative question:  Name the last senator born in Asia.

At the last second, host Neal Conan changed the first question.  He was concerned that some people might not agree that the Panama Canal Zone was part of Latin America.  So he changed it to read the last two senators born "south of the Rio Grande."

And that's what got us in trouble.

One caller, presumably answering the second question, suggested Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) of Hawaii.  I said that was wrong, as Inouye was born in Honolulu.

And that brought on a slew of e-mails.

"You goofed," wrote Matt Wall of Seaside, Calif.  "Honolulu is just as much south of the Rio Grande as Cuba or the Canal Zone is, so Akaka and Inouye both qualify. Consult any map or globe for details."

Also weighing in on Matt's side were Carl Wright of Kilauea, Hawaii; Emily Shapiro of Storrs, Conn.; Jackie Garner of St. Louis, Mo.; Jeffrey Martin of Wilmington, Del.; Derek Walls of Williamsburg, Va., and Brian Ullmann of Wichita, Kansas.

My response, after careful consideration:  It's Neal Conan's fault.

By the way, that last senator born in Asia is Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).  He was born in India in 1964.  His father, Douglas Bennet (full disclosure: a former NPR president) was working for U.S. Ambassador Chester Bowles in New Delhi at the time.

Some of the wrong guesses that made it to my in-box included Robert Menendez of New Jersey; he was born not south of the Rio Grande but in Manhattan.  Same with former Sen. and now Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who was born in Colorado.

For the record, the last senator born in Europe?  That would be Rudy Boschwitz, the former Republican senator from Minnesota, who was born in Germany.